Pentecost – praise, procession and psalms

The Ecumenical Officer for the Liverpool Archdiocese, Ultan Russell, shares the story of the pilgrimage down the city's Hope Street in 2024.

Pentecost 2024 was a marathon for our two Cathedrals. On Saturday night the (Anglican) Cathedral was packed for a performance of Handel’s Messiah. This commemorated the centenary of the laying of the Cathedral’s foundation stone which was also celebrated with a performance of Messiah. In true Scouse fashion, the difference was that these celebrations had not just their youth and adult choir but their equivalents from the (Catholic) Metropolitan Cathedral. For 50-plus years now these links have become normal but as the Rev Canon Philip Anderson, the Cathedral’s Precentor stated, this would have been unthinkable in 1924. It should be noted that one hundred years ago both choirs were all male!

The two choirs at each end of Hope Street had morning services on Sunday the 19th. But this was just the start. The pilgrimage along Hope Street, sponsored by the Free Church Council and the two Cathedrals through Churches Together in the Merseyside Region took place on Whitsunday afternoon.

This annual walk symbolises the Better Together motto so vigorously promoted by Bishop David Sheppard, Rev Dr John Newton, and Archbishop Derek Worlock together with those Catholic, Anglican and Free Church Leaders plus decision-makers (lay and ordained) who worked equally hard more than five decades ago. For me, this spirit of cooperation reached its zenith when what is now Churches Together in Britain & Ireland was launched in1990 in Liverpool when we processed from one Cathedral to the other – the people of Merseyside with the Assembly of the new Ecumenical Body. Of sadness was the Protestant Reformation Society and the Orange Lodge protesting – luckily that no longer happens!

Archbishop Malcolm Macmahon, Rev Dr Sheryl Anderson, Elisabeth Hachmoller and Bishop John Perumbalath
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, Rev Dr Sheryl Anderson, Churches Together in the Merseyside Region Coordinator Elisabeth Hachmoeller and Bishop Dr John Perumbalath. Photo: © Andrew Edwards, Ecumenical Officer Diocese of Liverpool

So, this year we processed from a service at the Metropolitan Cathedral. The preacher was The distinguished ecumenist and Dean of the Catholic Co-Cathedral of St Mary’s of the Isles, Douglas, (Isle of Man) Monsignor Canon John Devine OBE. John served for many years as Churches Officer for the North West Forum of Faiths and Pro-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope (our Anglican-Catholic University). He spoke with passion about the change in Merseyside, the value of receptive ecumenism and the importance of working together. He drew on the outstanding example of Churches Alive in Mann, citing the strong and united opposition by the Churches to the assisted dying bill going through the Manx Parliament and creative interchurch initiatives on safeguarding.

Then we processed in groups along Hope Street. Those involved in the signature Another Place organisation did mini-playlets – 1920s residents talking about the new Cathedrals … another acted as the stonemason building the Anglican Cathedral … while another was a sixties hippy type who spoke of the music of Liverpool but also of the changes caused by those Bishops.

play scene where cathedral stonemason talks to crowd
A group of Pentecost pilgrims listens to a playlet with the Cathedral’s stonemason Photo: © Andrew Edwards, Ecumenical Officer Diocese of Liverpool.

Then arriving at the other end there was music, giant skittles, building blocks to construct your own Cathedral plus picnics inside and outside the building. Finally, prayers and the blessing were given by three of the Churches Together in the Merseyside Region’s Presidents – our recent arrival Bishop Dr John Perumbalath (Bishop of Liverpool), Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, (Roman Catholic Archbishop) and Rev Dr Sheryl Anderson (Chair of the Liverpool Methodist District).

Read more from Churches Together in the Merseyside Region.

All photos copyright Andrew Edwards, Ecumenical Officer Diocese of Liverpool.